A friend emailed me asking if I had heard of The Essential Homebirth Guide after she had spent some time on Amazon looking at upcoming book releases. I thought it sounded like something I could use before T2 comes in a few weeks since I’m giving birth at home again, so I did what bloggers do and emailed the authors asking if they’d be interested in sending me a free copy in exchange for a review on my blog. They said yes, put a copy in the mail, and I had finished the entire thing two days after I received it. Considering I average around one book per month this is pretty impressive (I couldn’t put it down!).
The book is written by Jane Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM who run the website Essential Midwifery. In the United States if you’re using a midwife you’re likely going to be working with either a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). I used a CPM with my first birth, but was able to find a CNM for the second birth (she delivers at a hospital for most of her births and does a small number of homebirths as well, which is rare). I don’t necessarily think one is better than the other, but working with a CNM means there is a higher likelihood that insurance will cover at least part of the cost! I went into more detail about the differences between a CPM and a CNM here.
The Essential Homebirth Guide is an incredibly apt title for this book because I kept looking over to That Husband saying “Why hasn’t anyone written this book yet? It’s everything women giving birth at home need to know.” This book is a practical description of the many factors that need to be addressed when giving birth at home. I could tell that the authors had worked hard to give evidence-based information, and the amount of advice they give is kept at a minimum. The section on Group Beta Strep illustrated this really well for me. This is a test I have waived for both pregnancies, and it’s a frustrating/complicated area because a woman gets the test at 37 weeks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that she will have Group B Strep at 40 weeks. If she is having a hospital birth and tests positive at 37 weeks she will automatically get an antibiotic treatment when she delivers (even though technically she can test positive at 37 weeks and be negative at 40 weeks). It also means that a woman can test negative at 37 weeks but actually be positive at 40 weeks. The Essential Homebirth Guide lays all of this out very clearly, and also helps women understand what it means to be GBS positive, what it might mean for their homebirth plans, how GBS can affect the baby, and preventative measures you can take to keep GBS colonization under control.
One of the struggles I’ve had when navigating the world of homebirth is that the amount of unbiased reliable information is very small. All midwives have a particular bias that needs to be measured when advice is given, and googling things usually takes you to forums where women are giving out plenty of opinions without much evidence to back them up. In Chapter Nine: The Big Ten, I was able to read up on things like Anemia (something my midwife is watching closely with me), Rhesus Factor (I’m positive and decided to get the shot with both pregnancies) and Gestational Diabetes (a huge hurdle for women planning a homebirth because testing positive could mean that you will risk out from your midwife’s care and have to transfer to a hospital). As diabetes and large babies were discussed I read “Ultrasound has a known error rate of 13% when it comes to estimating fetal weight.” At the end of that sentence I’m pointed to a study by Nahum and Stanislaw titled “Ultrasonographic Prediction of Term Birth Weight: How Accurate Is It?” published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This is one of the many reasons why I think this book is so awesome.
Other favorite chapters included Chapter Five:”She Said, I Said, They Said — Communication, which discusses how to talk to your midwife and how to talk to your family about your choice to give birth at home, and Chapter Ten: Labor and Birth at Home, which I need to go back and review once again because it’s time for me to start assembling towels and checking to make sure the birth tub doesn’t have any holes! There are also multiple appendices that discuss Questions to Ask During an Interview and Further Reading for the Homebirth Family.
I plan on giving a copy of The Essential Homebirth Guide to my midwife and I hope she starts recommending it to her other homebirth clients as well. If you’re giving birth at home I would rate this book as essential as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and I can see it being incredibly useful to women giving birth in freestanding birth centers as well. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now.